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AV Stereo Quality - Empirical Evidence

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by Jonathan West, Mar 22, 2003.

  1. Jonathan West

    Jonathan West
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    I know it's been said many times but ... some people might like to know ...

    I recently bought a new AV Amp (Denon 2802). I just set it up, and connected my CD player (Arcam Alpha One) to it. Stereo quality was OK in terms of imaging (spatial placement of instruments etc. spot on) but the sound was tinny and imprecise. Plugged back in to my Arcam Alpha 3 Amp, and what a revelation! So I'm keeping my Arcam Alpha 3 to power the main speakers - and I am feeling in one sense disappointed :( (that an expensive AV amp does stereo like an old mini system! - I would have liked to save myself some space and the minor hassle of turning on my stereo amp to listen to movies), but also quite pleased :clown: that my (10 year old, £200) amp is still proving its worth against more expensive and much more recent kit.:clap:

    Actually, I am not sure that the Arcam can be beaten for stereo only ...:smoke:
     
  2. ditton15

    ditton15
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    The consensus seems to be that you need one system for stereo music and another for HC. Fortunately, you can use the pre-outs from the AVR2802 to join the two together.

    ditton
     
  3. Jimmysil

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    Hi Jonathan

    Thanks for the info, I was interested to hear how the 2802 performed as a stereo amp.

    Looks like I am going to have get a stereo amp for good music performance.

    Cheers

    Jimmysil
     
  4. Jonathan West

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    I would recommend an Arcam amp, but they don't seem to do "less expensive" ones any more as far as I know. If you can get a second hand Arcam Alpha 3 in decent nick on ebay or wherever it would be worth the cash.

    As a surround amp the 2802 is brilliant (with 30 minutes listening so far!!!). Miles better than my old Yamaha DSP E492 ...
     
  5. MuFu

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    Thanks for the feedback. How does the system sound when feeding the front pre-outs from the Denon into the Arcam? I suspect not alot better than just the Denon by itself, although I wouldn't want to place nasty thoughts in your head before you have a listen. ;) :D

    MuFu.
     
  6. Flimber

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    I hope your empirical evidence was derived double-blind, JW. I look forward to you getting your $10,000 prize ;)

    Mike.
     
  7. ditton15

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    As it happens, I know someone who has an Arcam Alpha 3 that is surplus to requirements. ditton
     
  8. Brox

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    Some manufacturers do make excellent AV and stereo amps - the Arcam AVR200 is fantastic in stereo. NAD I understand is also a good all rounder. I think Denon gained their popularity based on a high feature count but they were never that good in stereo, or at least not to someone who knows the differance.
     
  9. ditton15

    ditton15
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    Surely the set up should be

    CDplayer direct to (Arcam) stereo amp with analogue/phono

    The pre-out from Denon AVR to (Arcam) stereo amp is only sensible for the DVD plays of HC.

    But perhaps that what you meant?

    ditton
     
  10. MuFu

    MuFu
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    Oh, I agree completely - that organisation makes the most sense.

    My stereo source *is* my HC source though (an HTPC) and I am quite curious as to how Denon receivers are bettered by the use of an external power stage, if at all.

    I am due to receive a Denon 3802 soon due to an offer I'd be crazy to refuse. I already have a NAD c350 I use for stereo listening (using it as a power amp - jumpers removed) and am wondering whether to hold onto it or not - I have demo'd a 3802 with my speakers before and found it pretty ghastly for stereo use when compared with a decent integrated amp. Perhaps since the HTPC can do all the processing I'll use the analogue inputs on the Denon, but I'm not sure how "clean" they are. If they bypass all the pre/pro circuitary and such an arrangement sounds acceptable I may ditch the NAD altogether due to space considerations.

    Perhaps an HQ, line-level switchbox for the front two channels is in order.

    MuFu.
     
  11. ditton15

    ditton15
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    If I understand your set-up correctly, then the configuration I would try for stereo CD music play would be:

    HTPC -(FR+FL)-> NAD -> FR+FL speakers

    This confirms that your NAD does what it says on the tin as a stereo amp.

    For HC use you would then have
    HTPC -(FR+FL Aux In)-> NAD -> FR+FL speakers
    HTPC -(Centre & Rears Aux Ins)-> Denon -> Centre & Rear speakers

    However, that way you are only using the Denon as power amps (as I am assuming from what you say, that your HTPC is able to act as a pre-amp [though just how good that might be I wouldn't know - I know even less about HTPC]). Seems a waste of the Denon 3802, unless you are using it for other duties (TV PL2; Tuner, etc), since 3 power amps would seem 'purer'.

    hope this helps

    ditton
     
  12. MuFu

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    Yes it does help, thanks. That is the setup that seems most feasible to me at the moment, although if there is little difference for stereo between the HTPC=>Denon 3802 in "power-amp" mode and the HTPC=>NAD I'll definitely try and get away with just the one unit if possible.

    So what happens when using the x.1 inputs on these receivers? Is the processing/pre-amp stage bypassed altogether, i.e. no DSP, no gain control etc???

    You say it might be a waste of a 3802, but I think you'd change your mind if you knew the price I was paying for it. ;)

    MuFu.
     
  13. Jonathan West

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    I didn't need the double blind test, although I did close my eyes. :laugh: I listened to a single track (c. 8 minutes) of a Dvorak Piano Quintet on the Denon. I switched to the Arcam - 15 seconds later I was decided. It was that obvious.

    I did not bother with the CD -> Denon -> Arcam after that ... I presumed that you could not go from 3/10 to 10/10 with that combo;)
     
  14. Jonathan West

    Jonathan West
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    Course, AVR200 is £800+, and many reviews rate it poorly for AV ...
     
  15. fama

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    Im sure your test was valid
    stereo was "tinny and imprecise"
    surely movie sound goes thro same
    amplification,but since since the visual image is predominant
    maybe the movie "noise "is tinny and imprcise but not so noticeable.its disconcerting that the rags can say an amp is good at av but not for music,im not sure what this "means"
     
  16. Jonathan West

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    I reckon music, and especially classical music, is more demanding of systems and listeners more demanding of the sound than with AV. In movies it's dialogue (which is easy to do well) and effects. Precision is less important.
    ???
     
  17. sounddog

    sounddog
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    IMO, the problem with using a AV amp for stereo is not in it's power amps, it's in the way that stereo sources are manipulated.

    When you play a DVD, the digital signal come from your DVD player, into the (digtial) processing section, is mangled around a bit to produce 5/6/7/8 channels of information and only THEN is it converted to an Analogue signal.

    An analogue signal has to first be converted into digital for the processing to take place unless the amp has a true analogue bypass - and even then this is a lot more electronic complicated path than through a stereo preamp (which may be part of an integrated amp).

    Also I agree with Jonathan that music, especially classical, is more demanding because the sound is the whole experience, rather than just a part of the experience as in AV.

    Vikki
     
  18. stranger

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    I use a toshiba 900e dvd player for playing cd through a sony va555es in 2 chanel analogue direct mode and get excellent results.
     
  19. Jonathan West

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    I tried CD through my Pioneer 350 and it was pants compared with the Arcam CD ...
     
  20. sounddog

    sounddog
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    Not to completely throw your experience out with the bath water ... what is you "get excellent results" compared with? But yes ... both the Tosh 900e and the Sony VA555ES have been reported as being very good with stereo ... though neither matching pure stereo kit at half it's price (I never think it's fair to compare an AV amp at £900 to a stereo amp at £900, etc as the AV amp does twice as much!)

    Comments like this are really only of any use if we know what your reference is for something being excellent. Compared to a 10 year old Technics CD player and reciever, my Samsung 709 with Sherwood amp sounded excellent ... but that was very lacking compared with the Kenwood CD player with a Sony 930 I had later ... but that is completely blown away by a NAD C521i with Rotel RA1060 amp - hope you see my point and don't take any offence me asking.

    Thinking about comments made of the AVR200 - would be interesting to compare this (at £800) to a combination of an AV amp + Stereo amp totalling the same price for both music and movies and see how close it gets to being a good one box compromise.

    Vikki
     
  21. stranger

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    aspiring to but not being able to afford I (along with a friend) auditioned a musical fidelity A3.2 i/amp with the 3.2 cd player played through castle speakers, we both agreed that this did not sound as good to us as my setup-I felt the speakers were 'choking' the sound. (my speakers are dynaudio audience 42 kimber 8vs speaker cable pbj interconnectsand kimber power chords) we also auditioned a cyrus 7 set up with cyrus cls50 speakers on their custom stands-this sounded better than my setup to me (but not to my friend) but not by enough margin to warrant such a large outlay in relation to the improvement. these are obviously my views but honest nonetheless. it would be interesting to hear the results of some double blind tests between stereo amps and a/v amps in direct stereo mode.
     
  22. HotblackDesiato

    HotblackDesiato
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    Your views are the important ones...even if someone takes the trouble to sit through a blind crossover designed demo their results will only really tell you about their opinion. The trick is finding someone's opinion in whom you can trust and letting them find a short list for you.
     
  23. nigel_williams

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    I'm just about to get an Arcam AVR200 which will replace my existing Sony DB930 and (maybe) Audiolab 8000s. I'm using pre-outs from the Sony to the Audiolab when I want AV - the Audiolab is used in pre-power mode with a Musical Fidelity P180 power amp.

    Should make an interesting comparison!
     

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